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Carling high-rise proposal passes planning committee despite federal concerns

A controversial proposal to build two high-rise towers on Carling Avenue, directly across the street from the Central Experimental Farm, has once again passed at the city's planning and housing committee.

The plan is to build two high-rises at 1081 Carling Ave. One high-rise would be 16 storeys, the other, 27. It would add 410 residential units once complete. The proposal faced opposition from community groups over the height of the buildings but also from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which said that it was worried the shadows cast by the buildings could affect research at the farm across the road.

"If you do allow this development to go ahead as is, you should know that millions of dollars and decades of long term research will be compromised," said Stefanie Beck, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The proposal originally passed at committee in August but had to be sent back to committee before it could be approved by city council because the federal government wasn't properly notified about the Aug. 16 meeting where the plan was first approved.

Coun. Riley Brockington attempted to lower the heights of the buildings, moving an amendment to limit both towers to 14 storeys, but the amendment was defeated by a vote of 8 nays to 4 yeas.

"I'm trying to find middle ground for a development that I do want to see happen on a corridor that we need to see development, but experts have testified that this development will cause significant impacts to agricultural research," Brockington said.

The tower proposal passed with a vote of 9 yeas to 3 nays. Ex-officio member Coun. George Darouze, the chair of the agriculture and rural affairs committee, was at the meeting and voted in favour of the plan.

Full city council will vote on the plan Sept. 27.

Federal department concerned about impact on farm

In a letter to the city of Ottawa, representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) said they were disappointed that their absence from the Aug. 16 meeting was interpreted as a lack of concern.

"On the contrary, we are very passionate about the work we do for Canada and we are gravely preoccupied with any decisions impacting the Central Experimental Farm," the letter said.

We would like to clearly express that the Central Experimental Farm is a research space, not green space as currently defined by the City. It is important that Council consider the usage of the space accurately in rendering their decision. The Central Experimental Farm is not a park, but rather a field-sized laboratory working to conduct critical research for food security."

AAFC said in supporting documents presented to committee that building the towers would reduce the total sunlight reaching the research lands, thus reducing photosynthesis and growth.

"Variability across the landscape caused by spatial variation in shadow will make the lands unusable for research," the document said. 

Proposal meets city guidelines and policies 

City staff said the proposed development achieves the intensification objectives identified for areas near planned LRT stations and it is consistent with the Official Plan and High-rise Design Guidelines. Staff also said that shadowing from proposed development does not exceed the criteria identified for open spaces.

Committee chair Coun. Jeff Leiper said that, ultimately, councillors must consider the role of the planning committee in making decisions.

"I'm going to caution that this committee's job has been very strictly given to it under the Planning Act, which is to consider the merits of a rezoning application under the policies and guidelines that guide development in Ontario," he said.

"This file is unfortunately on our plate as one in which the vote we have to take, which is that this does meet our official plan policies, is at odds with that federal mandate to address food security. The federal minister may speak to us, if they had the opportunity, about the impact that our planning decision might have on their farm, but it doesn't affect the decision that we, nonetheless, need to make, which is on the planning merits of the file."

Karen Wright, the president of the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association, said she was disappointed with the vote.

"The fact that in spite of them explaining those serious impacts, they chose to ignore them and basically approve an impact statement that said there was no impact and allowed the development to go with no change," she said.

"City Council's job is to balance all of those competing concerns of Canadians and find the right balance, find the right compromise. So maybe not no development at that site. We were advocating for development but just modify it so it reduces the impact on the farm. That would be a reasonable thing to do. They chose not to make any compromise."

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Dave Charbonneau.

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